How to Lose Weight on a Deadline

If you want to lose 10 pounds fast, you don't have time to start a diet delivery plan, hire a personal trainer, or read self-help books. You need a no-nonsense approach that accomplishes two basic things:

  • Burns more calories than you consume
  • Provides ample nutrition irrespective of the calorie count

The bottom line is that you want to be both sensible and realistic in your approach. While some people can shed 10 pounds in a few weeks, the amount you lose ultimately depends on your starting weight, your current health and age, and your commitment to a holistic plan involving diet and exercise.


Establish Your Goals and Intentions

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To begin, start by outlining why you want to lose weight. If it is because you're preparing for an event or are simply tired of carrying around the extra pounds, write it down on paper. As basic as this may seem, it sets your intention and allows you to evaluate your goals objectively.

If your aim is to fit into a size 6 dress in time for your high school reunion, you can assess how realistic that goal is within the prescribed time frame. On the other hand, if you are simply fed up and want to lose the weight now, you may want to take another look at your intentions. It is also important to discuss your plans with your healthcare provider to confirm whether your goals are healthy for you.

Oftentimes, if you steamroll into a weight-loss plan, you will quickly lose steam if you don't reach your magic number fast (this is also why a "magic number" may not be a helpful goal). By establishing your goals from the start, you can assess how attainable they are and what you need to do to achieve them. 

Healthy weight loss occurs at a rate of around 1 to 2 pounds per week. Most experts will tell you that losing anything more is unwise, increasing the risk of nutritional deficiencies, muscle loss, hair loss, and menstrual irregularities. 


Calculate How Many Calories You Usually Eat

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Weight loss is all about consuming fewer calories than you burn during routine activity. The best way to figure this out is by writing down everything you eat in the course of a day.

Since you're on a deadline, you won't have time to keep a food diary to track your intake over a week. Instead, just sit down and crunch the numbers, listing everything you eat and drink on a normal day. You can then use a nutritional calculator to add up how many calories you consume in a 24-hour period.

Try not to pad the list with indulgent foods you only eat occasionally. The goal is to get your baseline intake so that you can determine exactly how many calories you need to cut back.


Calculate How Many Calories You Need to Cut

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The number of calories you need to eat daily to maintain a healthy weight depends on your sex, age, and physical activity level. Males ages 19 through 30 generally range between needing 2,400 to 3,000 calories daily and females in this age group range somewhere between 1,800 and 2,400 calories per day.

Calorie needs for adults ages 31 through 59 are somewhat lower. Females in this age range require about 1,600 to 2,200 calories a day and males require about 2,200 to 3,000 calories a day.

If you are overweight, it is likely you are consuming more than your body requires. Yet, dropping calories too low (or too fast) can make it difficult to reach your weight loss goals and remain healthy along the way.

To this end, use an online weight loss calculator to determine how many calories you need to cut back on based on your age, height, current weight, activity level, and target date. The calculator will tell you if your weight loss goals are too ambitious and will likely put you at risk.

Never consume fewer than 1,200 calories per day if you're a woman or 1,500 calories per day if you're a man. For some people, even these figures are too aggressive.


Create Your Diet Plan

looking at a food plan

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Now that you've done your initial calculations, you can subtract the recommended caloric intake from the number of calories you currently consume. For example, if you currently consume 2,800 calories per day and need to eat no more than 2,000 to lose a pound or two per week, that leaves you with 800 calories to cut.

But rather than just saying "I'll cut out all bread," take the time to build a weekly menu that is balanced and meets your daily nutritional needs. While you can certainly take a daily supplement, it is far better to get your nutrients from food.

According to the USDA's 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a balanced diet should contain ample quantities of vegetables, fruits, beans, grains (whole and refined), and moderate amounts of chicken, fish, lean meat, and low-fat dairy.

On top of that, no more than 22 to 44 grams of oil should be consumed per day, depending on your caloric needs, which includes oils found in foods such as nuts, seeds, olives, avocado, and seafood. Less than 10% of calories should come from added sugars and less than 10% from saturated fats.


Get Active

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If you want to meet your weight loss goal within a specific time frame, you cannot do it without exercise. Remember that the weight loss equation is based on burning more calories than you consume. By increasing your activity level, even by as little as 10 minutes per day, you will be burning calories faster than you did when you first started.

Start with a simple five-minute routine and make an effort to increase the intensity and duration of your workout every week. This is a realistic approach that helps develop a lifelong habit you can maintain once your weight loss goal is met. By keeping active, a little every day, you will begin to see results before you know it.

But don't overdo it. Over-exercising is likely to put you on the fast track to injury, not weight loss. Take a day or two off per week to give your muscles a chance to recover, strengthen, and grow after strenuous activity. On your days off, enjoy a walk with a friend and do other activities you enjoy to reward yourself.


Track Your Progress

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While most of us measure our weight loss by stepping on the scale, it is equally important to keep track of the tools for weight loss, namely the number of calories you eat and the amount of activity you put in. 

It is all about discipline. By counting every calorie and logging your exercise hours, you can stay firmly on track while better understanding how each contributes to your weight loss goals.

For example, if you adhere to your eating plan, you can see if certain activities, such as swimming or biking, help you lose weight faster than others. This allows you to find out what works best for you as an individual.

You can keep track of these figures with a diet app or activity tracker on your smartphone. In the end, the more you measure, the more you will keep with the program even after you lose those first 10 pounds.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Losing weight.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.

By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.